There may have been times, when you were listening to a local radio call-in show or watching a Canadian-produced sitcom on TV that you asked yourself "why do we need public broadcasting, anyway? Who is listening to or watching this stuff?" You aren't the only one looking for answers to those questions on the usefulness of public broadcasting, so we thought we'd address them in this article.
As a form of broadcasting that is funded by taxpayer dollars (i.e. by the people) the public in turn have access to the resource that they have paid for. Therefore if you wanted to voice your opinion on something that would be interesting to the public or thought it was important that the public be informed of a local concern, you would be able to do so, either by calling in during an opinion show, creating a piece for the community calendar programming, or by suggesting a story idea for the station's programmers. There is no guarantee that your idea will become the next great radio show, but if it is deemed to be of broad enough appeal, or important enough even to a small group in the community, it may well make it to air.
We live in an age when broadcasting has been largely co-opted by private companies who wish to use it to make money. Mostly they do this through advertising revenue so their programs are continually interrupted by commercial messages. There is no advertising on public broadcasts, freeing it up for more content and removing the annoying interruptions.
Commercial stations tend to fund or buy programs that are geared to be as appealing as possible to gather the maximum number of viewers who match the target of their advertisers. Public broadcasting doesn't have these restrictions and in fact is often required to run a certain amount of local or Canadian content. This supports local talent by getting their material out there and also makes it possible to air controversial programs or material that might be interesting to only one particular marginalized group.
Public broadcasting is about more than just getting away from ads or propping up the Canadian artist. The emphasis on Canadian content and government funding makes the programs that appear on our public stations part of our national identity. Broadcast not just within Canada but across the globe, programs on public stations allow people in other countries or from other cultures the opportunity to learn what it means to be Canadian.